Protesting, preaching and praying
Donal Godfrey is an Irish Jesuit priest and university chaplain living and working in San Francisco. He has been preaching in the church of St Ignatius on the campus of the University of San Francisco, and he has been protesting on the streets, along with other peaceful marchers demanding an end to racism in the US, in the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Photo left to right: Travis Russell, SJ, St Ignatius church, Greg Bonfilio SJ, Pastor St Ignatius church and Donal Godfrey SJ).
In this interview above from the United States with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Donal explains why he, as a white man of privilege, feels he has to speak out not just in his homilies but in his actions on the streets. His natural inclination would be to withdraw and keep quiet, but as a Christian and Jesuit priest, he says, this is not an option.
He also addresses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which he says is also part of the problem. He cites the disproportionate number of deaths that have occurred from it among the black and Hispanic communities.
He talks about the unconscious racism that has to become conscious and the need for truthful conversations to take place, painful though they may be, where the voices of the black community can be heard and honoured.
There is a woeful lack of leadership from the top, according to Donal. The US President, Donald Trump, is creating division and confusion instead of trying to unite the people in a quest for the type of justice that creates lasting peace.
Donal discusses the division within the Churches in America, including the Catholic Church. He is heartened by people like Cardinal Cupich of Chicago who spoke out strongly about the murder of George Floyd. He is critical, however, of those Catholics and bishops who have remained silent, making the issue of the life of the unborn the only yardstick by which to measure the challenge of creating a worthwhile society.
Abortion is an important life issue, Donal says, but there are many other life-threatening issues that must be addressed too. One is the future of the planet, he remarks, and there is also the health and welfare of oppressed minorities, including the native Americans who are almost invisible to many of their fellow Americans.
At times, Donal says, he is almost at a loss about how to proceed in this critical time in American history. But he can see the Holy Spirit at work, not as a dove but as the ‘wild goose’ of Celtic tradition, stirring people to protest peacefully or raising prophets like Sr Joan Chittister or Fr Bryan Massingdale of Fordham University.
So he concludes that paying attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and doing whatever we can to promote justice even in the smallest of ways is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who came to walk with the poor and to lift up the oppressed.